In what resembled an election campaign-style visit to Terrace Sept. 14, federal Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre took aim at the NDP’s dominance in the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding.
Poilievre appeared confident of the party’s chances, particularly as recent polling suggests the region could turn blue.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Taylor Bachrach acknowledged Conservatives are gaining ground nationally, but said his focus is on continuing to represent the riding.
To maintain support, Bachrach said he extensively travelled the riding over the summer trying to address Northwest communities’ concerns. He believes more federal programs are needed to alleviate the high cost of living.
“We’re pushing hard for public dental care, for PharmaCare, for programs that are going to help make life more affordable for people,” he said. “The Conservative leader has a long record of voting against those kinds of programs and supports. I think what we’re seeing, in many ways, is more of the same. I suppose when all they have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
One of the biggest issues facing residents of northwest B.C. is housing.
“My common-sense plan is to incentivize cities to speed up and lower the cost of building permits,” Poilievre said. “I’ll require municipalities to permit 15 per cent more home building or lose federal grants.”
According to Bachrach, northern communities have “unique” housing challenges and cannot rely solely on private market housing,
“The challenge in many of our communities, is that the municipal infrastructure is not sufficient to support new housing,” he said. “The other challenge is that there’s a severe lack of affordable non-market rental housing.”
On Indigenous rights, the Opposition Leader said he would repeal bill C21, which he claims infringes on Indigenous hunting rights.
“So many Indigenous people were betrayed by the NDP supporting a ban on hunting rifles,” he said.
Poilievre also promised Indigenous communities would get a larger slice of the pie from resource extraction projects if he were to be elected.
“I’m working on a policy that would let local First Nations governments keep some of the corporate tax revenue from resource projects that happen on their land,” he said.
Bachrach warned that union members, such as port workers in Prince Rupert, would not find an ally in Poilievre.
“I haven’t seen conservatives show up on a single picket line to hear the concerns of working people,” he said. “And they can count on me to stand with them during tough times when they’re facing incredible pressures, and have very valid concerns.”
Poilievre disputed that claim, arguing he had been welcomed with open arms by longshoremen in Vancouver.
“I was just meeting with the longshoreman two days ago when we were in Vancouver,” he said. “They were thanking me and the union was thanking me for championing their cause and fighting for their wages and jobs.”
Cost of living issues, which he puts squarely on the shoulders of the NDP-Liberal coalition, are the root of the strikes, according to Poilievre.